Tag Archives: self awareness

Emotional-Self-Control

Emotional Self-Control: A Leader’s Perspective on Staying Cool Under Pressure

 

According to Daniel Goleman, Emotional Self-Control is “the ability to keep your disruptive emotions and impulses in check, to maintain your effectiveness under stressful or even hostile conditions… staying clear-headed and calm.”

Self-management and control are necessary components of the leader’s tool kit. It’s not so much about trying to muzzle yourself as it is about understanding your role as a leader.

Here’s how Emotional Self-Control emerged in my experience:

Years ago, as a newly minted manager at IBM, I was blessed with an insight into what this means both for the organization and myself. I was promoted to management because I was good at doing things. It’s the same in every business where I’ve worked. Generally, those who are the best at doing the work get recognized and when there is a need for managers they are selected because of their ability as “doer’s.”

In my case, I took over a financial planning department at an IBM semi-conductor plant in Essex, Vermont. The manager I replaced was a hard and dedicated worker, often putting in fifty to sixty hours a week; however, his work was largely transactional, and reactive. We did as we were told under his management and took few risks. Having taken over his department, I found myself sitting at my desk one evening wondering what I was supposed to do and trying to understand exactly what it meant to manage and lead a department of skilled financial analysts, some with far more experience than me.

I could feel the beginnings of panic, a tightening in my chest and a strong feeling that I should be doing something. But what? As I sat with my feelings, I suddenly understood. My job wasn’t at all what I thought it was. My job was to hold the anxiety for my department, for my team.

What does it mean to “hold the anxiety?”

Holding the anxiety involves engaging your Emotional Self-Awareness and Emotional Self-Control so that you can see the difference between your “doer” self and your “being” self. When you don’t have the ability to “do,” your anxiety can increase and you may feel motivated not to feel your feelings, but to push them on to your employees and co-workers. This can manifest itself in many forms. Micromanagement or other controlling behaviors are often at the top of the list. It is easy to rationalize our behaviors. But consider an alternative approach: if you choose to allow your anxiety and fear to take over and you micromanage or control your team, you miss the opportunity to develop your own self-awareness and effectiveness as a leader, and also miss out on the opportunity to develop a trusting relationship with your team. You may never really see what great work they can do, instead believing they need you to make decisions for them. They will then wait for your direction before making decisions and moving forward because they don’t feel trusted. But developing decision-making abilities in others is key to good leadership.

In “holding the anxiety,” you create space for them to learn and grow and ultimately increase the capacity of your team.

Applying Emotional Self-Control in the real world

It is a very delicate balance. Those above you in the hierarchy may be acting out their own anxieties from various pressures. This is where Emotional Self-Awareness and Self-Control are critical. You can listen to what your boss wants, feel the feelings you have, hold them, and then calmly talk to your team about what needs to be done and engage them in creating the proper result by listening, guiding, coaching, and leading.

Always take a moment to allow yourself to simply “be” and connect with your self-awareness, but don’t project it onto the team. You won’t always be successful. Sometimes we do project, but when you do if you can own it and recognize your projection you will continue to build a trusting relationship with your team and demonstrate your true strengths as a leader.

Fear is a motivational and destructive force in business. No one wants to fail. If we can understand and own our own fears and not project them on others, we will discover that engaged team members are far more creative and productive than frightened ones.

Victor Morrison has diverse management experience, including Financial Operations Manager for IBM, CFO of Finance for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, CEO of Elan Ski and Snowboard Company for North America, President of American Flatbread, and recently as CEO of Dr. Hauschka Skin Care for the US and Mexico. Victor also works locally as a management consultant, focusing on sustainable business strategy development and executive management coaching. Victor has also been an occasional Adjunct Business Professor in Green Mountain College’s Sustainable MBA Program, teaching classes in People Management, Sustainable Business Strategy, and Finance.  

Recommended Reading:

Interested in learning more about how to apply these concepts at work? Our newly released Primers provide a concise overview of the Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competencies of Emotional Self-Awareness and Emotional Self-Control, as well as an overview of the Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competency Model itself.

The Primers are created by Emotional Intelligence author Daniel Goleman, with several fellow thought leaders in the field of emotional intelligence, leadership development, and research, including Richard Boyatzis, Vanessa Druskat, Richard J. Davidson, and George Kohlrieser.

 

attention-span-self-awareness

Improve Your Attention Span Through Self-Awareness

attention-span-self-awareness

Improve Your Attention Span Through Self-Awareness

By Ann Flanagan Petry

“You think because you understand ‘one’ you must also understand ‘two’, because one and one make two. But you must also understand ‘and’.” – Rumi

In the workplace, we often fall into just the trap that Rumi describes. We think that because we understand how to be busy accomplishing tasks (one) we also understand how to be effective in our work (two). So, we focus on agendas, “to do” lists, and clearing out our in-box. But when we do that, we are missing out on the quiet yet critical, “and” in the equation: the powerful force of mindful self-awareness.

Attention span is the length of time you’re able to concentrate on a single activity before becoming distracted. The longer you’re able to sustain attention, the more likely you are to gain depth and quality in things like learning or creating. This impacts work and life in a myriad of ways, from increasing productivity to being able to express the best of what we have to offer. But how can we improve our attention span effectively?

Self-Awareness is a Verb

Self-awareness is often referred to as a static state within leadership competencies: “he has self-awareness.” In other words, he has met this competency and we can check “goal met.” However, it is important to recognize self-awareness is really more of a verb and refers to an ongoing process. To understand this more fully, take a moment and tune-in to your own mind and body right now… What do you notice? Indeed, recognizing what is happening in any given moment – from the inside out – can be a bit of a shock. Someone once described it as hearing one insult after another. Others have said it was like an endless barrage of complaints… what isn’t working… what isn’t good enough. Beyond being aware of the internal narrator, we might notice other things, like the tension we are holding in our bodies or the incessant urge to stay busy – to be productive.  This is self-awareness. Remarkably, our inner experience is ever changing and shifting. Awareness of this reality is at the heart of the self-awareness competency.

The Challenge of Continuous Partial Attention

In fact, the cultivation of the competency of self-awareness is becoming more critical for 21st century leaders. To understand just how important, consider the increasing regularity of lack of self-awareness occurring in daily life. Linda Stone coined the term Continuous Partial Attention (CPA). Stone, a former Silicon Valley executive, honed her leadership skills at both Apple and Microsoft. She discovered this from observing leaders all around her. Continuous Partial Attention coupled with fear of missing out (FOMO) is the new normal. We take our smart phones out at the slightest hint of a wait, whether it’s at the grocery store or the stoplight. Both terms describe a recent human phenomenon: a constant state of anxiety and hyper-vigilance to attend to texts, social media, and email… all at the same time!

To demonstrate this further, a survey of Canadian media consumption by Microsoft concluded that the average attention span had fallen to eight seconds, down from 12 in the year 2000. We now have a shorter attention span than goldfish, the study found.  Attention span was defined as “the amount of concentrated time on a task without becoming distracted.”  Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft believes human attention is “the true scarce commodity” of the near future.  Daniel Goleman describes the impact of “the impoverishment of attention” in his book, Focus, The Hidden Driver of Excellence.

Self-Awareness as an  Inner-Rudder

Notably, according to Goleman, “self-awareness, particularly accuracy in decoding the internal cues of our body’s murmurs, holds the key” and is an inner-rudder that can bring us back to deepening attention. As a result, numerous organizations are explicitly coaching and training employees in awareness skill-building. The organizations range from multinational corporations to city governments.

Inspired by the work of neuroscience researcher, Richard J. Davidson and his vision to “imagine a world where we could improve our capacity to pay attention by even 5%,” Sara Flitner, former Mayor of Jackson, Wyoming, together with the support and funding of the Wellness Department at St. John’s Medical Center (SJMC)  partnered with the Wisconsin School of Business at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Center for Healthy Minds to offer research-based practices in well-being and leadership development. Together, they undertook a community-wide initiative to bring this content and learning to elected officials, school administrators, as well as hospital and town leaders.

Also of note, a large professional services firm engaged the Center for Healthy Minds to train hundreds among its leadership ranks. Michele Nevarez, a positive organizational development consultant and adjunct faculty with the Wisconsin School of Business helped facilitate the neuroscience-based leadership training for Jackson’s leaders and the firm. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Nevarez believes the sessions met a critical need of bringing key stakeholders together to apply practices that strengthen attentional focus and promote renewal. This can help to combat the daily information overload and allow for better coping with the stresses of everyday life, which if left unmanaged can undermine well-being.

The challenge of Continuous Partial Attention and information overload is a common and tremendously difficult problem that is growing with each new wave of technological capabilities. Yet, we are discovering people are adaptive and have agency to choose how and what to pay attention to.

Try this:

Choose a time of day, or trigger activity (such as for 10 minutes before or after eating lunch) and check in with yourself. You can even schedule this on your calendar for reminders and to insure you’re not interrupted. What do you feel in your mind and body? A sense of hurry to get back to work? Unease from lack of sleep or lingering emotion from disagreement with your spouse? The simple act of tuning in and noticing what comes up is, in essence, the practice of tapping into one’s emotional self-awareness and attention. With regular practice, this can help deepen and lengthen attention span by rewiring the brain to be more at ease with less reactivity to external impulses. It will also help to combat the daily information overload, allowing for better coping of the stresses of everyday life.

Ann Flanagan Petry is a Positive Organizational Development Consultant, Coach and Contributing Author of the forthcoming book, Advancing Relationship-Based Cultures. She has over 20 years of experience driving performance improvement in organizations. She partners with leaders to cultivate resilient, mindful, emotionally intelligent teams who improve clients, their own and their organization’s performance and wellbeing. 

Recommended Reading:

Interested in learning more about Emotional Self-Awareness? Our newly released Primer provides a concise overview of this Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competency. It is co-written by several thought leaders in the field of emotional intelligence, leadership development, and research: Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, Vanessa Druskat, Richard Davidson, and George Kohlrieser. See the Primer here.

mindful self-awareness leadership research

Mindful Self-Awareness as the Basis for Effective Leadership (New Research)

mindful self awareness leadership research

Mindful Self-Awareness as the Basis for Effective Leadership

By Matthew Lippincott

“Just being in a present, more calm place of mind I think that it’s easier to see what’s really important and what’s not…I definitely think [mindfulness] had a huge, positive impact on my success, there’s no question about that.”

– General counsel for a leading global health products corporation

In 2016 I completed the first known study to examine the impact of mindfulness on leadership effectiveness. The study included interviews with 42 senior and executive leaders, documenting reports of the influence of mindfulness on their leadership careers at a total of 83 global organizations. All of the participants had completed mindfulness training, and incorporated that knowledge into their daily leadership activity. I also used the Emotional and Social Competency Inventory (ESCI) Model developed by Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis to identify the presence of Emotional and Social Intelligence Competencies that have been empirically linked to increased leadership performance.

What is Mindfulness? How is it related to Self-Awareness?

Mindfulness has been studied in clinical, military, professional sports, and corporate settings for more than 30 years. This research has associated mindfulness with a significant number of benefits, including increased employee job performance ratings and reduction in stress and anxiety. Neuroimaging has also been used to investigate the effect of mindfulness, indicating a change to the brain’s physical structure and functioning relating to reasoning, inhibition, and decision-making.

Scholars agree that mindfulness is a state of consciousness consisting of awareness and attention.

Also referred to as a form of meta awareness, mindfulness is comprised of:

  1. Clear focus of attention on the present moment, including experience and events.
  2. Ability to change the level of non-judgmental attention.
  3. Awareness of shifting attention between the inner self and the outer world.

The easiest way to understand mindfulness experientially is to focus all of your attention on your thoughts, feelings, and actions as they occur.

For example, mindful self-awareness can be practiced by actively observing yourself when communicating with others. This includes your reactions to verbal and non-verbal forms of communication, and the way those reactions influence your responses. This type of awareness also contributes to Emotional Self-Control, as summarized by a participant who heads strategy and business development for one of the highest ranked global 2000 companies: “I can really compact the quality of awareness, and look at the emotions coming and going just in front of me. And not be swept away by them.”

Mindfulness training will strengthen Emotional Self-Awareness, the first Competency of the ESCI model, which falls under the domain of Self-Awareness. Emotional Self-Awareness is our ability to recognize our emotions, how our experience affects our feelings, and discern the relationship between how we are feeling and our actions. In this context, mindfulness enhances your self-awareness capabilities by helping you develop the ability to monitor and understand emotions as they arise.

Awareness and understanding of your feelings is key.

Developing Emotional Self-Awareness is a crucial first step in effective leadership because it lays the foundation upon which the other eleven Emotional and Social Intelligence Competencies are built. We can’t develop skills like Emotional Self-Control, Empathy, or Teamwork unless we are coming from a place of Emotional Self-Awareness. It gives leaders the necessary information about themselves and the effectiveness of their interactions so that they can monitor their emotions and manage their behaviors accordingly.

Key Findings of the Study

Analysis of my study data revealed a variety of improvements being attributed to mindfulness:

  1. Significant, positive impact on leadership effectiveness, supported by extensive examples of workplace results.
  2. All 12 of the Emotional and Social Intelligence Competencies linked to leadership performance were identified in each of the participants.
  3. Reports that mindfulness enhanced cognitive function and recognition of how emotions influence mental performance and behaviors.

The study produced a significant amount of data relating to organizational leadership development as well, highlights of which include:

  • 98% of participants described a transformation of their fundamental understanding of what effective leadership is.
  • 79% of participants reported stronger interpersonal relationships resulting from greater authenticity, honesty, and vulnerability in their interactions with others.
  • Extensive indications of enduring (trait) behavioral changes, which is supported by the Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competency Model.

The results of this study also align with other research indicating that improvements to leadership effectiveness may be achieved more quickly and with a higher rate of success through the incorporation of formal mindfulness training. This is partially due to the role of mindfulness in enhancing Emotional Self-Awareness and the Emotional and Social Intelligence Competencies. This complementary relationship helps leaders to identify what types of behaviors are required for specific situations, and also strengthens their ability to determine whether or not those behaviors are effective.

The scientific basis for these improvements is believed to be based upon repeated activation of neural networks through training focused on developing self-observation capabilities.

For example, neuroscience studies indicate that mindfulness may change the way neural networks connect with each other. Researchers also indicate that these changes may contribute to an improved capacity for activation of regions of the brain associated with more effective situational stress response and adaptability via neuroplasticity. These changes may improve your ability to activate regions of your brain that help you respond to stressful situations.

Mindfulness Training is More Accessible Than Ever

A quality mindfulness training program will typically last at least 8 weeks with a minimum commitment of 30-40 minutes a day. This time requirement is likely related to the fact that changes to neural networks require repetition in order to take hold. Online and print-based home study options exist, as do a growing number of apps that help deliver training more conveniently.

Takeaways for Personal Application

So how can you develop mindfulness and Emotional Self-Awareness in order to become a more effective leader? Committing to the completion of a mindfulness training program administered by a certified individual or organization is the fastest and most reliable way to experience these benefits. In fact, the use of mindfulness in the workplace can begin shortly after training starts, so enrollment in a quality program is also the fastest way to start experiencing results.

There is variability in the quality of programs so a safe bet is to look for programs based on the proven and highly regarded Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Extensive instructor training and certification programs have been in place for years. This means that you should have no difficulty finding courses being designed and delivered by credentialed experts with in-depth experience.

Many of the leaders I interviewed also specifically mentioned that they regretted having “dabbled” with mindfulness training and not completed a full-length program earlier in their careers. When discussing this topic, leaders associated full-length training with a variety of professional benefits, summarized as: “I’ve found mindfulness to be incredibly powerful and incredibly useful,” and “[mindfulness] has provided me a tool or a set of tools to be more effective as a leader.”

What to Expect

The process of mindfulness training includes exercises that will lead you to experience a mindful state early in the training. A well-developed program, delivered by a credentialed instructor, will also help you more effectively apply the training to your environment. Once the core skill set has been developed you will be able to use the techniques intentionally. A consultant specializing in board-level strategic advisement I interviewed said “Before I go into a meeting with a client or a client group, I’ll stop. I’ll make sure that I just don’t rush in. I’ll check in, do some breathing, check in with myself. Set my intention for going into a meeting.”

You will also develop the ability to use mindfulness in response to unplanned, situation-dictated requirements. Different techniques are used for different purposes by each individual. This was best summarized by the founder of a 25-year-old, leading global consulting firm as: “for me the important part of the practice is sort of the daily integration that happens throughout the day, any number of times.”

The more you can incorporate deliberate and improvised mindfulness practices into your daily routines, the more you will begin to experience the positive results associated with mindful self-awareness. These results are based on how you use your new insights into the effects of your thoughts and feelings on your workplace behaviors. Therefore, in my next article, I’ll share findings from my study relating to how mindfulness and Emotional Self-Awareness relate to the Emotional and Social Intelligence Competency of Emotional Self-Control.

Recommended Reading:

Interested in learning more about Emotional Self-Awareness? Our newly released Primer provides a concise overview of this Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competency. It is co-written by several thought leaders in the field of emotional intelligence, leadership development, and research: Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, Vanessa Druskat, Richard Davidson, and George Kohlrieser. See the Primer here.

Self-aware-leader

How Self-Aware Are You As a Leader?

The first time I was held hostage, my self-awareness and ability to manage my emotions saved my life. After a psychotic man rushed at me and held a pair of scissors against my throat, I chose to talk rather than call for force to be used against him. I focused on each word, using them to build a connection and shift the man’s focus away from despair. In that moment, I had to communicate from my heart, not just my mind.

I am a trained hostage negotiator. Most leaders rarely face life-or-death situations like this that hinge on their self-awareness and their impact on someone else. However, many leaders regularly find themselves in positions where their ability to use self-knowledge and communicate well are crucial to effectively engaging other people to work toward a common goal. When you know what’s in your heart and can communicate it, you get engagement, authenticity, and a deeper bond.

Self-Awareness is Fundamental to Inspiring Leadership.

Self-awareness is the entry point to effective leadership. Just as in hostage negotiation, it is important for leaders to be aware of their impact on others. Yet many leaders have no idea of their negative impact. A key barrier is people’s own blind spots about themselves or their role in the organization. There can be big differences between how we evaluate ourselves and how other people see us. How can someone change if they don’t realize they have areas that need improvement? Good coaches and bosses help people confront the fact that they have blind spots that they need to change. Then the real change can begin.

How to Develop Self-Awareness

Once you’re aware that you have blind spots, how can you change? Reflection, meditation, and being able to ask yourself critical questions are key tools to cultivate self-awareness. What is getting a result or not getting a result? Can you label your emotions? Do you know when what you’re feeling is disappointment, anger, fear? Do you understand the real cause of these emotions? If so, you can begin to connect how that emotion is triggered, and how it impacts your work and life.

To really rewire the brain, it takes coaching and practice. In my High Performance Leadership programs, we see dramatic changes in people through this process, developing awareness particularly through group feedback. After a week of working together, the group tells you whether they’d like to have you as a boss or a colleague. I’ve seen senior leaders brought to tears, saying, “Now I know why my employees hate me. I hardly knew the people on the program, yet they identified behavior I wasn’t aware of.”

Ask yourself:

How can I get feedback about the impact I’m having? This type of feedback that a coach, mentor, or supportive colleague can offer is crucial to high performance. For example, maybe the feedback is that you’re using too many words when you talk or that you don’t speak up enough when you have something to contribute. Knowing that someone recognizes this in you can help you change these behaviors. When somebody gives you feedback, you can identify the issue and start to work toward change.

George Kohlrieser has forty years of experience as a hostage negotiator and a psychologist. He’s the Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior at one of the world’s leading business schools, the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) in Switzerland. At IMD he created and directs the school’s flagship High Performance Leadership (HPL) program.

For more in-depth information on the Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competency Model and how Emotional Self-Awareness impacts your work and life, see Emotional Self-Awareness: A Primer.

To learn more about Emotional Intelligence in leadership from George Kohlrieser and Daniel Goleman, see The Competent Leader and Crucial Competence.

making difficult decisions

Your Body’s Role in Making Difficult Decisions

making difficult decisions

Don’t let the voice of others’ opinions drown out your inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”- Steve Jobs

When it comes to making difficult decisions, how do you hear “your inner voice,” that your heart and intuition somehow already know?

Listen to your body’s signals.

Making Difficult Decisions: Gut Feelings

Dr. Dan Siegel, clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, explained the complex process of how our minds and bodies formulate and respond to a hunch for our video series Leadership: A Master Class.  You can read the excerpt here.

There’s wisdom in the body. When you’re self-aware, you get a gut feeling. You have a heartfelt sense. Our gut feelings are messages from the insula and other bottom-up circuits that simplify life decisions for us by guiding our attention toward smarter options. The better we are at reading these messages, the better our intuition.

Yet sometimes, if we have been traumatized, for example, the gut feeling we get can lead us astray. If you’ve been bitten by a dog or hurt by someone who had red hair, when you see a dog or a person with red hair, your gut may say “bad, bad, bad”, and may create a tone of negativity that is based on past traumatic experience. So bodily input doesn’t always mean you should respond to it directly. You should analyze it.

Making Difficult Decisions: Somatic Markers

Somatic marker is neuroscientist Antonio Damasio’s term for the sensation in our body that tells us when a choice feels wrong or right. This bottom-up circuitry telegraphs its conclusions through our gut feelings, often long before the top-down circuits come to a more reasoned conclusion. The ventromedial prefrontal area, a key part of this circuitry, guides our decision making when we face life’s most complex decisions, like who to marry or whether to buy a house. Such choices can’t be made by a cold, rational analysis. Instead we do better to simulate what it would feel like to choose A versus B. This brain area operates as that inner rudder.

Making Difficult Decisions: Sensing

Erica Ariel Fox spoke with Daniel Goleman in his Leadership: A Master Class video series about “direct knowing”: I know this, but I don’t know how I know it. I didn’t read it in a book. Nobody told it to me. I didn’t have an Excel spreadsheet that laid it out for me. Nonetheless, I know it. She argues that we have a set of skills that coaches and leaders who work with teams might call “reading the room.” Others call it attunement or discernment. It’s not data processing and thin-slicing, and it’s also not having an emotional evaluation of decisions. It’s a sensing. When she works with a team in crisis, she recognizes that tuning in to the group’s feelings and emotions helps her ask the right questions about what’s happening.

Making Difficult Decisions: Use Your Body

When we’re under pressure, we become narrow minded and tense. We aren’t able to tap into our body signals. But we also forget to use our body to help us refocus. Taking a time out also allows us to hone our self-management skills. Paying attention to the mental and physical signs and experiences that occur during stressful situations gives you an opportunity to practice composure.

Breathing is often abandoned or compromised when anxiety arises. A few conscious deep breaths will oxygenate your brain and improve the clarity of your thinking. Here is a simple exercise you can do: Breathe in and count one… then breath out and count one. Breathe in and count two… then breathe out count two. Breathe in and count three… then breathe out. Keep repeating this in a steady rhythm.

To ground yourself further during the process, place your hands on your abdomen or chest and observe the sensation of your abdomen or chest rising and settling. Learn to relax in the experience.

Master the Art of Making Difficult Decisions

making difficult decisions

Registration is open for the Mindful Leadership Breakthrough System, a live webcast series with executive coach and senior meditation instructor, Dawa Tarchin Phillips. The program is designed to help executives and leadership development professionals apply mindfulness principles to overcome common internal and external barriers to presence, productivity and performance.

changing habits

Changing Habits: Know When to Turn Off Your Autopilot

changing habits

iStock/Shivendu Jauhari

Changing Habits: When Autopilot Takes You in the Wrong Direction

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein

If you think about it, we live much of our life on autopilot. We’ve developed countless habit loops for daily activities: brushing our teeth, commuting to work, setting our DVRs. Unfortunately, some of our critical decision-making skills also go into sleep mode.

In the workplace, it’s natural to develop decision-making patterns due to time pressures, other priorities, even overconfidence (“I’ve done this before. I’m a pro.”). Our responses to problems or situations become automatic. When X event occurs, pull lever Y to solve the issue.

However, not all obstacles are created equal. A lack of presence around the nuances of a situation can be detrimental to a project – or an organization. Knee-jerk decisions often lead to costly mistakes. “This is how we’ve always done it” leadership mantras can also stifle thoughtful responses to unique challenges.

Fortunately there are several ways to become more aware of your ingrained behaviors and learn more productive ones.

Changing Habits: Find Your Blind Spots

An emotionally intelligent leader can monitor his or her moods through self-awareness, and change them for the better through self-management. But where does one start? How can you identify the areas you need to improve?

One way is to ask others to help you identify your blind spots. Hearing the truth about yourself can be uncomfortable. But self-delusion can derail even the most talented professional. Gather feedback from as many people as possible – including bosses, peers, and co-workers. Seek out negative feedback, even cultivating a colleague or two to play devil’s advocate. Keep an extremely open attitude toward critiques.

Such 360-degree feedback will reveal how people experience you – and provide you with valuable information about how you tick.

Changing Habits: Know How You Process Emotions

Customer complaints, tech issues or office politics illicit different emotional responses in different people. Knowing how you respond to such challenges can help you discover and practice new thought patterns that are positive and productive.

For instance, anger is a common response to office mishaps. Sometimes it’s justified. But will blowing up at a co-worker solve the problem? Will passive-aggressive treatment change the “wrong-doers” actions? Or would taking a five-minute walk help clear your head? After you’ve calmed down, could you talk with your co-worker to get a better understanding of the factors that played into making the mistake?

Remember, we may not be able to choose our stressors, but we can always choose how we respond to stress.

It’s also helpful to understand how our brains process emotions. The emotional centers are in the middle of our brains, especially in an area called the amygdala. In Daniel Goleman’s book The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights, he says,

“The amygdala is a trigger point for emotional distress, anger, impulse, fear, and so on. When this circuitry takes over, it acts as the ‘bad boss,’ leading us to take actions we might regret later…. The key neural area for self-regulation is the prefrontal cortex, the brain’s ‘good boss,’ guiding us when we are at our best. The dorsolateral zone of the prefrontal area is the seat of cognitive control, regulating attention, decision-making, voluntary action, reasoning, and flexibility in response.”

Changing Habits: Stop, See, Choose

Learning to recognize mental and physical signals to emotions play a major role in shifting mental habits. Do you grind your teeth or tap your pen on the table when meetings get derailed? Practice noticing your responses to triggers. Use them as guides to shifting your internal dialogue to a more neutral place. “I’m doing it again. Let me put my pen down, loosen my jaw and count to five. Then I can gently remind the team that we need to stick to the agenda.”

The more you become aware of thoughts, feelings and physical reactions to triggers, the more opportunities you have to practice behavior change.

Changing Habits: Retrain Your Brain

Making change means rewiring our brains by doing and redoing new behaviors, over and over, to break old neural habits and make a new behavior automatic.

One approach is mentally preparing for a task. This activates the prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain that moves us into action. More mental preparation translates into doing better at the task. And, the prefrontal cortex is particularly active when someone prepares to overcome a habitual response. Without that brain arousal, a person will reenact tried-and-true but undesirable routines. Learning agendas literally give us the brainpower to change.

Even just envisioning new behaviors will help. Brain research shows that imagining something in vivid detail can fire the same brain cells actually involved in doing that activity. Mental rehearsal and experimenting with new behaviors make the neural connections needed for genuine change, but they aren’t enough to make lasting change. For that, we need help from others – coaches, trainers, or trusted peers.

Changing Habits: Real-Time Test

Habit change may be a self-directed process, but it can’t happen in a vacuum. Our relationships with others help us articulate and refine our ideal self, compare it with reality, assess our progress, and understand the usefulness of what we’re learning.

We need to practice new skills with other people – in a safe environment. We need to get feedback about how our actions affect others and to assess our progress on our learning agenda.

Changing Habits: Additional Resources

Brain Science

Brainpower: Mindsight and Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

Develop a Healthy Mind: How Focus Impacts Brain Function

The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights

Practical Application

Mindful Leadership Breakthrough System

Cultivating Focus: Techniques for Excellence

Relax: 6 Techniques to Lower Your Stress

Thriving on Change: The Evolving Leader’s Toolkit

 

 

 

 

 

organizational awareness

Develop the Three Levels of Organizational Awareness

organizational awareness

Outstanding leaders have an acute organizational awareness.

Organizational Awareness: Inner, Outer and Other Focus

In this brief video clip from the Brainpower: Mindsight and Emotional Intelligence in Leadership with Daniel Goleman and Daniel Siegel, Daniel Goleman discusses systems thinking, three levels of organizational awareness, and visionary leadership. He points out that outstanding leaders are aware of the many systems within organizations. Such leaders start with the level of self-awareness and self-regulation, move outward with empathy toward awareness of interpersonal relationships, and then further to awareness of the whole organization.

Dr. Goleman has written about this inner-other-outer “triple focus” in many contexts, including organizational leadership and education. In his article, “Why Leaders Need a Triple Focus,” adapted from his book, Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, Goleman said,

“When Accenture interviewed 100 CEOs about the skills they needed to run a company successfully, a set of 14 abilities emerged, from thinking globally and creating an inspiring shared vision, to embracing change and tech savvy. No one person could have them all. But there is one “meta” ability that emerges from research on leadership: self-awareness. Chief executives need self-awareness to assess their own strengths and weaknesses, and so surround themselves with a team of people whose strengths in those core abilities complement their own. This means inner focus.

Companies also need leaders who have an other-focus—who understand the motivations of their employees and want to help other people be successful, too. For instance, they realize that if someone lacks a given strength today, they can work to develop it.

Such leaders take the time to mentor and advise. In practical terms this means:

  • Listening within, to articulate an authentic vision of overall direction—from the heart and to the heart—that energizes others even as it sets clear expectations.
  • Paying attention to people’s feelings and needs, and showing concern.
  • Listening to advice and expertise; being collaborative and making decisions by consensus.
  • Coaching, based on listening to what the person wants from their life, career, and current job….

Of course that doesn’t mean that leaders can ignore other concerns, like market trends or innovation, to meet changing demands. But the same attention skills that can help manage one’s own emotions and work relationships can help leaders stay more flexible and allow for better outer focus.”

organizational awareness

Brainpower: Mindsight and Emotional Intelligence in Leadership is a collection of streaming videos and audio downloads with Daniel Goleman and Daniel Siegel.

Brainpower provides leaders, executive coaches, management consultants, and HR professionals with a science basis for their leadership development work.

Additional Resources to Develop Organizational Awareness

The Focused Leader

Attune: The Role of Focus in Authentic Leadership

The Competency Builder

Cultivating Focus: Techniques for Excellence